Tag Archives: spirituality

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

In a previous episode of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast I read out a list of musings I had written down and compiled years ago, musings that I felt were helpful to keep in mind when navigating life. For lack of a better title, I quickly (and flippantly) names the list the Brama Sutras, not really expecting it to ever find its way to the general public. That obviously happened when I decided to read it for an episode of the podcast, and since I did, many of you have asked for the list written out, so voilà!

I have retitled the list Η Σοφία Sutras, as Η Σοφία (The Sofia) translates to “The Wisdom” from Greek to English, and it was in Greece where I felt compelled to share that piece of writing. The word “Sutra” means “thread” in Sanskrit, and so these are the threads of wisdom that, when woven together, can form a fabric of wisdom to keep in mind when navigating life.

Here they are, exactly as they were read for the podcast. Enjoy!

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

1) These words are your call to presence, to attention, to this moment.

2) Transformation is the only constant. Everything will change, from the greatest blessings bestowed upon us to the darkest moments we will survive. If it arises within your awareness, it is already in a state of transformation.

3a) This moment is more important than the ones that preceded it and the ones that will follow it, in this moment. This is true for each moment, as with each passing second, a new moment is.

3b) The present moment is your priority. What came before and what come after must be secondary to the present moment, in all moments.

4) Concentration on the present moment is a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is the practice of working with our thoughts. It is the ability to hone one’s attention in one specific direction, onto one thing specifically, for longer and longer periods of time. It is also the ability to be present enough to notice when the thoughts are focused on something and then redirecting the thoughts to something else.

5) Mindfulness is the art of awakening. Accessing this art requires paying attention. By paying attention, we begin to tune into a different frequency, and the more often we get into the habit of tuning into that different frequency the more we work at changing our experience of life.

6) This experience of life will be wholly and entirely dependent on our perspective and our ability to reframe a situation so that perspective is changeable and fluid.

7) Our unique understanding of “reality” is almost entirely based on our perspective, which informs the understanding we have of our environment and scenarios, of everything that arises within our awareness.

8a) Conflict may arise when one person disregards another’s understanding of “reality” in favour of his or her own, and then attempts to impose it.

8b) Harmony may arise when one person acknowledges and validates another’s understanding of “reality” while allowing it to coexist with his or her own, with no need to suppress the other’s in order to validate his or her own.

9a) Self-conflict may arise when one person adheres to his or her understanding of “reality” instead of welcoming alternate perspectives.

9b) Self-harmony may arise when one person welcomes alternate perspectives that reveal the relativity of “reality.”

10a) The experience of life will be greatly influenced by the honesty and transparency with which we assess whether we naturally gravitate to conflict or harmony.

10b) We have a choice as to whether our time is spent in conflict or in harmony.

11) The human brain, untethered and undisciplined, leans towards the negative aspects of our understanding of events.

12) We ruminate over the fear we have of the negative outweighing the positive in our understanding of events, which takes us out of the present moment and propels us into the abstract, into what is not.

13) Mindfulness is the discipline that allows us to focus on the opposite of the negative, the opposite of what scares us, the opposite of conflict.

14) Mindfulness practices are most useful in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15a) One key mindfulness practice is setting an intention to prioritize harmony over conflict, negative over positive. This is Attention to Intention.

15b) Intention must be prioritized over reaction in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15c) Intention is a commitment.

15d) Intention sets the direction that we commit to move in, the path we commit to follow, the behaviours we agree to override those that only serve to contribute to our suffering.

15e) Time spent without intention is time spent at the mercy of the meanderings of the mind.

15f) Time spent with intention is time spent closer to the energies of that which we wish to be in alignment with throughout this lifetime.

16) Setting an intention effectively and efficiently requires acceptance of what is.

17) Acceptance is the precursor for change.

18) One cannot efficiently move in the most meaningful direction without acceptance of what is and of what life has brought to our table.

19) Acceptance may involves grieving for what was once hoped for, but what was never meant to be.

20) The mind that practices meaningfulness is the mind that seeks to see beyond the literal, beyond the obvious, beyond the appearance of any given moment, person or object.

21) The practice of meaningfulness contributes to our ability to reframe our situation so that our perspective of it is altered. It aids in seeing past the seemingly random so that we find connections where, on a superficial level, none would appear to exist.

22) To find connections where previously none were apparent is to find meaning in the innocuous, to find a deeper understanding that possibly informs events and our relationship to them.

23) The practice of meaningfulness is the practice of finding meaning that serves us to align with the intentions we set for the time and events which await us.

24) Initial stages of practicing meaningfulness include asking certain questions in pursuit of a deeper meaning, questions like, “What am I meant to learn from this?”, “What else is occurring right now in this moment that I may be distracted from due to my mind’s negative bias?”, and “How can my experience of this challenge or moment serve to connect me to others instead of leaving me feeling isolated and alone?” Our perspective is everything. The way we see the world is the way we experience it. It really is that simple.

25) Reframing a situation aids in shifting perspective.

26) Shifting perspective helps us move from the limits of our own personal history and experiences.

27) Shifting perspective helps us move away from the default egocentricity we feed when we stay stuck in our own self-interests and self-awareness.

28) Shifting perspective helps us move from the I and the me to the us and the we.

29) Shifting perspective helps us find the freedom to choose a different interpretation and understanding.

30) Shifting perspective may lead us to growth and transformation.

31) Shifting perspective may facilitate turning the negative into positive.

32) Shifting perspective contributes to practicing meaningfulness.

33) We must never forget the kindness bestowed upon us by another.

34) We must immediately forget the wrongdoing or hurt bestowed upon us by another.

35) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering the blessings we are surrounded by.

36) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how fragile and temporal our blessings may be.

37) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how, in this moment, suffering could be considerably heightened, and appreciating that it is not.

38) The loss of gratitude is a key factor in the destruction of the affiliations and partnerships we have.

39) The practice of compassion involves the consideration that all beings operate in the midst of hardship.

40) The practice of compassion involves prayer and action for the end of all suffering, for ourselves and for others.

41) The practice of fearing less involves repointing the mind from the potential of the negative to manifest to the potential of the positive to manifest.

42) Communication is the foundation for the healthiest and most positive of affiliations and relationships.

43) Your story is worth telling.

44) Your story is worth observing.

45) Observing the narrative of your life without personalization will bring clarity.

46) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts elicited from observing your narrative will bring clarity.

47) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts that arise within you in any and all circumstances, contexts and environments will bring clarity.

48) You are the power of observation.

49) You are not what you observe.

50) There is just this, and it is perfect as it is

The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast

I am extremely happy to announce the launch of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast! Episodes will include lectures, interviews, occasional rants, and whatever else I feel like sharing with the world that deal with everything from spirituality to the most mundane aspects of this experience of life. Sit back, relax, and enjoy what has already been recorded, and what is yet to come. To access the Podcast page, click on the image below!

 

Use Your Words, My Love

This is not a time in history to fuck up in the public forum. Across the world, and even more specifically, south of the Canadian border in the country that tenuously holds onto the “land of the free and the home of the brave” title, a wave of intolerance has been gaining momentum over the past few years. A few months ago I watched the CNN series “The Sixties” and was somewhat educated on how politically unstable that decade was, and how volatile the fight for human rights made the 1960’s. I was pretty shocked to see that regardless of how far we think we have come since then, many of the issues people in the US were giving their lives for to see colour barriers come down and have all humans treated equally seem to be as present today as they were then.

With the current administration in America doing its best to divide people and their opinions, and in an age where those opinions have countless platforms through which they can be expressed, it is no surprise that the US is splintered and fragmented. Those whose history is made up of overcoming hate, genocide, slaughter, slavery, discrimination and dehumanization have every right to be on guard right now, as they do for the rest of time. There are those, goaded on by the president’s apparent refusal to out-rightly condemn hate and intolerance, who take to social media outlets with the sole purpose of instigating conflict. There are organizations with social media bots whose sole purpose is to do the same, resulting in human beings with the best of intentions ending up in Twitter wars with bots designed to amplify the conflict until emotional reaction erupts. We have every right to staunchly stay on guard and be as vocal as the troublemakers so that we continue to fight the good fight and ensure the freedom and happiness of all people.

Late last month, one of my childhood heroines, Roseanne Barr, posted a tweet that read, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” to her Twitter account, referring to Valerie Jarrett, who, among other accomplishments, was a senior advisor to the Obama administration. Rightfully so, within days, Roseanne’s career was over, and within weeks the show she had created and which was in a successful reboot was rebooted once again, this time without its namesake having anything to do with its new incarnation. I decided to boycott anything to do with her, and chalked it all up to her being one more casualty of this period of carte-blanche xenophobia that emboldens even celebrities to spew hate.

Today I listened to an interview she gave to her spiritual advisor, Rabbi Shmuley, in which she talked, among other topics, about her spirituality, how inexcusable that tweet was, how she didn’t know Valerie Jarrett was African-American when she wrote the tweet, and how sorry she is about making herself the poster person for hate, or, in her own words, “A hate magnet”. And as inexcusable and horrific as her tweet was, I found myself contemplating the concepts of forgiveness, right speech (written and spoken), the literalist global society that social media has fostered, and these hypersensitive times in which we must be vigilant to hate and intolerance, and in which, for the first time in my lifetime, we need to censor ourselves for any nuance, sarcasm or double-entendre that might get lost in how our words are received.

A few days ago Madonna posted a doctored photo to her Instagram account of a still image from Beyonce & Jay-Z’s new video, Apeshit. The image, taken from the inside of the Louvre where the power couple were looking at a wall of paintings from some of the masters throughout time, had album covers from Madonna’s body of work replacing the works of art, and the caption below written by Madonna was, “learning from the Master…lol”. Fans of Beyonce and Jay Z immediately took to social media to accuse Madonna of being racist by using the word “master”, alluding to its roots in slavery. Madonna removed the word from the post when the backlash began.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Madonna knows that she is anything but racist. But in this moment in time where we are all super sensitive and dealing with the free-floating anxiety of a US administration using its influence to set human rights back to where they were in the 1960’s, it is only normal that we hold each other to stauncher standards in how we communicate. It is only normal that we ensure that our celebrities be held accountable for how their words may be misconstrued or damaging to the communities and cultures who have suffered intolerable mistreatment and are now afraid that history seems to be on the verge, if not the cusp, of repeating itself.

Let me make something crystal clear for anyone who has the intention of taking my words and misconstruing them: I am not defending Madonna or Roseanne Barr. If anything, their examples exist so that we learn from them, so that we understand that we need to adhere to right speech, using words that successfully convey their intention. To not do that, in today’s social climate, is to invite in a tsunami of rage and indignance, understanding that whether or not we applaud or condemn it, this is where we are in time today, this is where we find ourselves.

Do I think that we tend to overreact to judgement these days? Absolutely. Do I think it’s sad? Yes and no. If I were African-American in today’s social climate, you better believe I would be alllllll over that shit, looking for the slightest bandwagon that the troublemakers could jump on to then use a celebrity’s name and influence to jump onto. I get it, and I think it’s an occupational hazard of all this turmoil that has risen to the surface of our collective consciousness. However, yes, I think it is sad that our ability to receive and appreciate sarcasm and deeper meaning is dormant. Yes, I think that it is sad that we are quicker to sling hate towards those who have transgressed instead of realizing that by doing so, we end up contributing to the energy that we object to so indignantly. Yes, I think that it is sad that forgiveness seems to be a concept of the past. Yes, I think that it is sad that we conveniently forget how timely the, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” passage from the bible is. Every single one of us has fucked up. Every single one of us has said things we immediately regret. None of us are faultless. Yet we attack other people from this high horse of superiority when they have a weak, human moment. I remind myself constantly that when I judge others unfairly, I open up the spiritual channel for others to do the same to me.

So what can we learn from all of this? I think that what we are meant to learn is to take greater responsibility for the words and energy we launch into the world, especially through social media channels. We need to mean what we say and say what we mean, and we need to consider how our words have the power to traumatize. We need to speak and write with right action, not emotional reaction. The same way sending that drunken text at 3am is a bad idea, so it is to express ourselves in the forum of public scrutiny irresponsibly, with no regard to how we may be negatively impacting others and making their load harder to bear.

Years ago, as I watched my sister-in-law deal with one of her young children who was being unruly by kneeling down to his level and saying to him, “Use your words, my love”, I made a mental note to do my best to do the same. It looks like we may all need to take a page out of that book.

When Your Accidents Of Life…

…result in having a face or body that our current culture deems beautiful, be humble.
…result in being far more talented than the rest of your peers, be humble.
…result in being born into a family with material abundance, be humble.
…result in having the privilege of not having to worry about being yourself in the world without facing resistance, be humble.
…result in anything that could be misconstrued as being better or luckier than anyone else, be humble.

The body, gender, family, culture, demographics, geographical location, skin colour, sexual orientation and time in history that you were born into, seen through the lens of some faiths and belief systems, are completely random, “accidents of life”, to quote Joseph Campbell. You can take absolutely no credit for any of it, and none of it is a valid measure of your worth. More importantly, stop judging other people based on their accidents of life. Be humble and consider that we have all been duped into believing that this literal, human experience is the sum total of the journey we find ourselves on. “Don’t be small-minded”, we read in the Ashtavakra Gita. “The universe exists within you”. Don’t be duped by illusion, by the appearances your limited senses can interpret. The packaging is simply the container for what you should really get to know, which is the spark of energy that is, truly, who and what we are. Seek that out in others and you will not only get to know who they really are, but you will be making connections that transcend what divides and separates us.

Authoring A New Year

As the cycle that was named “2017” comes to its end, and “2018” makes its entrance, here are some intentions to commit to instead of relegating to the realm of the forgotten after a few weeks into the new year.

1) Do your best, as often as possible, to focus on what’s going well instead of what seems to be going wrong. Do this more often when things seem dismal or hopeless. This is it. It’s now. The good and the bad, the uplifting and the horrifying, the light and the dark. It’s all occurring simultaneously. Despite everything that we object to, we have the choice as to whether we spend all our time obsessing over the infuriating or whether we remember to also focus on what co-exists with the infuriating, which is the beauty, the kindness, the connection and the love we all seek.

2) Balance out the time you spend doing with the time you spend being. This means letting yourself have the down-time, or “gap-time” (to quote my late teacher Joan Ruvinsky), necessary to change your thought and behavioural patterns from the constant rhythm they are used to. Let me clear here, this does not mean incorporating some practice you think you should be doing, like meditation or yoga, if that practice will simply be something else you do, but which does not facilitate unplugging from everything else you do. Let yourself simply be, as yourself, with nothing else to do, with nothing else to fix.

3) Make more and more time in your schedules to put your passions ahead of your obligations, and do this consistently and unwaveringly.

4) Welcome all adversity and fear as the life lessons in which you are meant to learn what you’ll need to be armed with for future stages of your journey. Instead of putting the blinders on and just trying to survive through life’s darkest moments, infuse light into them by understanding that you have a choice as to how you respond to them. You do not have to be held hostage by them. Take a deep breath, face what has manifested with your head held high, and keep asking yourself, “What am I meant to learn from this?”, because there is always something to glean from what induces suffering.

5) Disregard what other people believe are “best practices.” Best practices are for sheep who want to conform to other people’s structures and rules in order to attain what is deemed as success in other people’s eyes. Do it your way, how you feel compelled to make it happen, whatever it is.

6) One of life’s truths is that not everyone does their best to be kind, to be generous, to uplift and inspire in the name of the betterment of the world. Some people are just hell-bent on contributing to chaos and destruction. Recognize these people, especially when they present themselves as part of the solution in order to get more power with which to destroy. Recognize them, call them out, speak up against them, keep a watchful eye on them, and then disregard them. They would like us all to focus on them, because any attention is better than no attention. Don’t let them disrupt your peace, your contentment, your intention to be part of the solution.

7) Be kinder.

8) Laugh more and laugh harder.

9) Speak your truth and speak up if you’re not being heard.

10) Consider that these days are golden. Appreciate them, regardless of everything you may believe is going wrong.

All the best for a happy, healthy year ahead!

We’re Still Here – One Night Only with Bram Levinson at the Rialto Theatre

I am beyond excited to finally announce that I will be doing my own show/speaking engagement at the historic Rialto Theatre in Montreal! After years of lecturing in yoga studios, convention centers and festivals, I’m proud to bring what I do to the theatre, especially one that has played a part in my life and is a Montreal landmark and institution.

Event description:

For one night only, Montreal-based author and teacher Bram Levinson is taking his wisdom, irreverence and humour to the stage. Join him for an evening of insight, laughter and exploration into life, family, love and what it means to be spiritually awake in today’s world. Brandishing his usual refreshing, deeply personal, edgy approach and sense of humour, stories will be told, wisdom will be shared through his experiences and perspective, and inspiration will be what’s left after everything is said and done. Don’t miss this one night with Bram at the historical Rialto Theatre!

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Doors Open: 19h/7pm
Show Time: 19h30/7:30pm

Box Office/Tickets: $40+taxes, available through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/were-still-here-one-night-only-with-bram-levinson-tickets-38155077865

Special thanks to Mandy’s, the sole sponsor for this event!

Photos courtesy of John Dabarno Photography,
https://www.smashingpixel.com/blog/rialtotheatre

My Work

I don't want to deal with the state of today's world.

I don't want to find excuses or justifications for what I object to, to the injustices that seem to be becoming more and more commonplace, simply to quell my dumbfoundedness and indignation. I don't want to judge, and I don't want to call myself on my judgements because I know that there's already too much judgement being slung around like stones at a stoning. I don't want to placate myself by attempting to cultivate patience as I wait for the world leaders who are abusing their power to fall into the annals of history. I don't want to see the virtuous and the kind suffer, and I don't want to see those that think solely of themselves, with no regard for the well being of others, effortlessly float through existence. I don't want to see the ignorant venom that gets spewed out in 140 characters or less, and I don't want to see my fellow humans get to the end of their lives believing that what they learn through news channels about other faiths, beliefs and points of view is a proper education.

There's a lot I don't want. But like it or not, this is. It all is, undeniably. And I have a choice as to whether I'm going to rant and rave and object and age into a curmudgeonly, bitter man, or if I'm going to do everything I can to work with my own feelings of anger, disbelief, disappointment and fear so that I acknowledge and experience them fully, and then occasionally alter those vibrations into different ones that lift my spirits. I have a choice as to whether the sensations my body experiences day in and day out are "negative" and harmful, or whether they soothe my senses and help to prioritize calm and clarity above all else. I have a choice as to what I focus on, understanding that the object of my attention will dictate the quality of my experience of every single moment.

And so, I pick my battles. I do great things for other people. I help other people with their most difficult obstacles. I bring laughter to situations that are laughable, even when they're tragically so. I elevate others. I am kind to myself. I make time to do whatever the hell I want for myself to balance out the time and effort I dedicate to my work and mission. I balance discipline and comfort, finally understanding how necessary they both are.

I accept the state of today's world, don't get me wrong. But I am hell-bent on making sure it doesn't get the better of me. More so, I do what I can, exceeding personal expectations, to make this world a better place. It's the only thing I can realistically do.

That's my work.